by Mary Carole Strother
If you have ever taken a trolley tour in historic downtown McKinney then you have surely crossed paths with Collin County historian Pat Rodgers. Over the past twelve years, Pat has made history come to life for visitors who have boarded the small green trolley as it follows a path through the streets of McKinney. She is famous for her trolley tour of the historic homes and buildings, telling little known facts, details and stories of the early days of McKinney. Her latest trolley tour is called Bad Boys, Desperadoes and Outlaws of McKinney. During the tour, she dresses as Belle Starr and wears a six shooter, boots, and hat as she tells stories of the daring and dangerous escapades of the early outlaws.
Pat also volunteers her time at the Collin County History Museum located in the historic Post Office and Federal building, built in 1911, in downtown McKinney. She believes strongly in the museum’s mission to Preserve and Honor the Past, Connect with the Present, and Embrace the Future. Collin County has a very colorful past, full of colorful and not always honorable men and women. Many were flawed individuals that made mistakes that impacted them throughout their lives. Pat feels like it is important to learn from history so that we do not repeat some of those same mistakes today.
Pat spends hours and hours of time researching topics and people for her school and museum programs. Her role as storyteller at the museum came about as she determined that people really identified with a real-life character from history. Through that character, she is able to bring history to life and the listener is more apt to remember that moment in history and the struggles of the times in which these people lived.
During the 2017-2018 World War 1 Centennial Celebration, Pat researched the life of Ann Compton who was a nurse in the Army Nurse Corps. In her programs to various groups Pat dressed as a WWI nurse and told the courageous story of Ann Compton who died of pneumonia and influenza at the age of 28. She was the only service woman in Texas to die in the Great War.
One of her favorite programs that she presented at the museum was Running with Bonnie and Clyde, the Story of Ralph Fultz. During the program, she dresses up as Bonnie Parker and tells the story of Ralph Fultz who ran with Bonnie and Clyde reigning terror across Texas. Ralph grew up in McKinney and at a very young age met Clyde Barrow in Huntsville. Ralph spent ten years in prison and was given a second chance. He married and came back to McKinney and eventually worked with youth at Bucker’s Orphanage in Dallas. He encouraged them to follow the straight and narrow path instead of falling into a life of crime like he did. Ralph helped change the criminal justice system in Texas and his story became a story of redemption.
In 2020 as the spread of Covid shut down programing and tours, Pat did not let that stop her. She and her husband Charles set up a studio in their home, complete with lights, camera and green screen. She changed all of her in-person programing to online Zoom programing. She designed four different Zoom programs and was welcomed into the homes of hundreds of people across, Dallas, Collin, Denton and Hunt counties. In partnership with Celebration Magazine she continued telling her stories and sharing her love of history.
Pat has received numerous awards for her work. In 2020, the John Abston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution honored her with the Women in American History Award. In 2021, Pat was awarded the Living Legacy Award by the Collin County Historical Commission.
Pat and her husband Charles live in a 1910 prairie style Arts and Craft home, that they have authentically restored, in the historic district in McKinney. History has always been an important part of her life and her passion is sharing that love with everyone she meets.